US trial turns heat on MTN

Patco in turn appears to be linked to a firm called Arya Hamrah Samaneh Co, the state-linked partnership that operates a data centre housing MTN Irancell's hardware systems.

The US prosecutor's account of Hajian's and Talley's activities seemingly dovetails with allegations by Reuters last year that "MTN was well aware of the US sanctions, wrestled with how to deal with them and ultimately decided to circumvent them by relying on Middle Eastern firms inside and outside Iran".

Reuters quoted Chris Kilowan, MTN's Iran office manager from 2004 to 2007, and referred to extensive internal documents, including presentations that "openly discussed circumventing US sanctions to source American technical equipment for MTN Irancell".

Kilowan, also Turkcell's main witness in its complaint against MTN, claimed that Arya Hamrah was an Iranian front "used to camouflage purchases of embargoed equipment" by MTN Irancell.

He said MTN Irancell obtained Sun servers – like those exported by Hajian – from an Iranian firm, Patsa Co, a shareholder in Arya Hamrah.

Last year, the Mail & Guardian reported allegations from sources in MTN Irancell that the company and its contractors had actively assisted the state in targeting political activists by providing person-specific data.

MTN has consistently denied circumventing embargoes and expressed outrage at claims that its technology could be used to identify and persecute dissidents.

Paul Norman, MTN group's chief human resources and corporate affairs officer, has said: "MTN works with reputable international suppliers. We have checked vendor-compliance procedures and continue to monitor them and we are confident they are robust."

Neither MTN nor Hajian's ­attorney, Jim Felman, answered questions this week.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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